Updated: Apr 29, 2020
Thank you to Fr. John Gordon for his beautiful Easter exhortation this past Sunday at our People of Hope virtual prayer meeting. We've included the entire talk here so that it may continue to inspire and encourage us.
Good afternoon dearest brothers and sisters.
This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it Alleluia! Today is the third Sunday of Easter and we find ourselves gathered finally in this virtual way of being together. It's a little odd and peculiar. I'm actually recording this from the chapel of the Holy Spirit at the community office on the grounds of Koinonia Academy. It's Wednesday morning as I'm doing this but I know we're going to be together to do this on Sunday afternoon at our regular prayer meeting time.
I want to preach the gospel message of Easter today and so I want to encourage us to take a moment now, if you haven't already to have some holy water nearby, if you have holy water , and if not, just get a bowl and put some water in it a because afterwards we want to take in opportunities to bless ourselves with this holy water as a sign of the Easter season that we're in.
Christ is risen Alleluia! He is truly risen Alleluia! In many cultures throughout the world this is a typical greeting during the Easter season. I've been trying for over 30 years to make that what we do here in the northeast of the United States, I am singularly unsuccessful but I'll try it again. Christ is risen Alleluia! Yes he is truly risen Alleluia!
This is good news but it's good news not just now because it's the Easter season but it's good news always. It is St. Augustine who says that “we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song."
So it's not merely about a day or even a liturgical season it's about our whole lives oriented to the truth that Christ is risen Alleluia, he is truly risen Alleluia!
And what makes this gospel so compelling is it is absolutely true, that is Jesus' resurrection is an actual historical face and the Gospels were written to proclaim this very truth. For example, in Luke 1:1-4 he tells us the reason why he writes the gospel, “In as much as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have accomplished among us as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning
were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word it seemed good to me also having followed all things closely for some time past to write an orderly account for you most excellent Theophilus that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed” or as John says in his Gospel, chapter 20 verses 30-31, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and that believing you may have life in his name”. So the historical ground upon which this Easter proclamation of Christ's resurrection from the dead is an historical fact for which the Gospels give evident witness.
What is the evidence that the Gospels proposed? Two primary evidences that they proposed are the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances.
The empty tomb on that first Easter several people went looking for Jesus although they fully expected him to be dead, they went to that tomb expecting to find a dead body that they could anoint and care for and show their love and affection. They were totally gobsmacked to find it too empty.
‘What did this mean?’ they must said - they had said to themselves ‘could it all be true?’ Of course the other sign that the Gospels point to is the appearances of the resurrected Jesus. And some people were locked behind doors for fear and yet Jesus appears to them he comes through that door, he comes into that place that is blocked off and locked away. They too were totally gobsmacked to see him. What does this mean? It is all true!
This evidence of the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances is absolutely astounding because the truth of the matter, is the fact of the matter, is that death always wins in the end, or so they thought.
Or so they thought: that everyone would be subject to this battle of death and life in which ultimately life will always succumb, but now we know that in the end Jesus wins! Well actually no, not in the end because if Jesus doesn't win now that he's not gonna win at the end either. So the truth is that Jesus' victory over sin and death is not just something that's going to happen but it already occurred and not just Easter Sunday and the Easter season but always and everywhere! Because as we hear in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If Christ is not risen from the dead if he's not alive now then of all people we are the most to be pitied”.
But how do we know today that this is all true? How do we know it now? There are no more resurrection appearances of Christ not since ascension Thursday have there been a resurrection appearance of Christ. And the empty tomb is now a huge pilgrimage site. But we look again. Let's look again to the testimony that the Gospels present as I mentioned in Luke 1 and John chapter 20 and that the resurrection story is not just about an empty tomb and about resurrection appearances. The other constant is witnesses, those who witness to the truth of Christ risen from the dead, Christ alive and not dead. From the Apostles to the Fathers of the Church to the Saints to us witnesses of Jesus witnesses to Jesus not dead, but gloriously alive!
We've already had him within us by virtue of Baptism and Confirmation for many of us if not all of us and what happened at the baptism the Holy Spirit is something stirred up, something was awakened that we no longer thought that Jesus would be dead someplace but he is gloriously alive, he has defeated death! Not just for himself but for us, for you and me here and now. We know that Jesus wins. When we experience the power to resist temptation Jesus wins. When we are able to forgive or hurt or an enemy, Jesus wins . When we know the truth in confusion, brothers and sisters, Jesus wins. And when we can find a hint of joy even in the presence of death, Jesus wins. And ultimately when we have hope in the midst of fear, Jesus wins.
So we enter into that great witness, line of witnesses, the great cloud of witnesses, not just something in the past before us but now so that we too are alive and about. And what we witness too is the fact that there has been a real battle seemingly against an invincible foe. And yet we call the words of the Easter sequence “that death and life have contended in that combat stupendous, the prince of life who died reigns alive reigns immortal”. Brothers and sisters, Jesus' victory over sin and death at Easter assures it is about a battle that has been gloriously and ultimately and definitively fought and won by Jesus Christ. Again not something that in the end he wins, but he's winning now when I forgive, when I find hope, when I have confidence, when I'm able to do something I could not do in my own, I'm able to turn the other cheek or go the extra mile or so an act of kindness or charity or even in the midst of my personal struggles whatever they might be I might know that it's not about me but about him. It's not about finding only problems and difficulties, for then I'm looking firmly, I'm looking firmly at myself.
But I know that he who has risen from the dead today here for me we are victorious in Jesus resurrection insofar as we are in Christ. As the Word of God tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation”. how did we get to be in Christ dearest brothers and sisters? This has been what baptism has done for us. We realize this victory in ourselves through the grace of baptism. In Romans 6:3-11, the Word of God tells us “that do you know that you who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death and by participating with him in his death we likewise participate in his resurrection” and just as death has no power over him as Romans 6:10 says “so death has no power over those United to him by the great gift and sacrament of baptism”, which is what Lent was all about preparing us for this baptismal promise preparing us through this renewal a baptismal grace. And so as we find ourselves in the midst of this crazy situation which we find ourselves there is, brothers and sisters. I want to invite us today to exercise that grace of being witnesses to Jesus risen from the dead. That Jesus victory is alive here and now despite all the things going on about us despite the skirmishes, despite even death, a death that does not last, a death that is not the total package of death that is not victorious.
And so I invite you to get that holy water that I asked you to get at the very beginning for that bowl of water and we are going to take the opportunity dearest brothers and sisters as a as a body together to renew our baptismal commitment so that we might be witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, an empty tomb resurrection appearances but even more he is alive with each of our hearts.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, through the Paschal mystery we have been buried with Christ in Baptism so that we may walk with Him in newness of life. Now that our Lenten observance is concluded, let us renew the promises of Holy Baptism by which we once renounced Satan and his works and promised to serve God in the Holy Catholic Church. And dearest brothers and sisters I invite you to respond as vigorously as your faith allows.
“Do you renounce sin so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?”
“Do you renounce the law of evil so that sin may have no mastery over you?”
“Do you renounce Satan the author and Prince of sin?”
“Do you believe in God the Father Almighty Creator of heaven and earth?”
“Do you believe in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord who is born of the Virgin Mary suffered death and was buried rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father?”
“Do you believe in the Holy Spirit the Holy Catholic Church the communion of saints the forgiveness of sins the resurrection of the body and life Everlasting?”
May Almighty God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has given us new birth by water and the Holy Spirit and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins keep us by His grace in Christ Jesus our Lord for eternal life now and forever Amen and Amen and Amen.
Brothers and sisters sealed with this grace of the Holy Spirit sealed with this wonderful promise of God the resurrection of Christ is not just some oddity or not just the thing that happened long ago and far away. It's alive because he's alive in us, let us celebrate this, let us acknowledge that even in the midst of everything else that looks like death, Jesus is alive. For Christ is risen Alleluia! He is truly risen Alleluia! God bless you.